School starts virtually

Taylor ISD Superintendent Keith Brown (right) sat in on Around the Watercooler to talk about how the district is preparing to start school. To watch the entire interview, visit the Taylor Press Facebook page.

Taylor ISD students will begin the 2020-21 school year at home with the flexibility of bringing back students into the classroom this fall.

"We hope we can bring the students back this fall in person, but for now, we're being safe and will start with the four-week plan and two-week evaluation," said Taylor ISD Superintendent Keith Brown. "We were prepared to start Aug. 20 in person and virtual . . . Our staff will be ready, and we will do the best that we can and learn with our parents and our community as we move forward to provide the best education for our students."

Last week, a plan was presented to the Taylor ISD board of trustees that explained how the district will address virtual learning for the first four weeks of school. On July 17, districts were given the option to open virtually for the first four weeks of the academic year. In an interview Thursday, Brown talked about the district's plan to move forward.

"Our focus remains to keep our employees and students as safe as possible," he said.

Taylor students will have school virtually the first four weeks. After the first two weeks, the district will review COVID-19 cases in Williamson County and determine if it will continue virtual learning after the first four weeks or begin in person learning. If the district extends the virtual learning another four weeks, the board would have to approve a resolution to be submitted to the Texas Education Association (TEA). A decision could also be made to offer both virtual and in person learning.

On Aug. 3, Taylor ISD will reopen, and staff members will return Aug. 5.

"From that point on we will engage our parents and have our plans put up so that they'll know well in advance of the start of school," Brown said.

School is expected to begin Aug. 20.

Brown said for early childhood grade levels, parents would just need a cell phone with a camera. Some will still use low-tech materials, such as worksheets, and can use the camera to take photos of their work.

"We'll provide the hardware for the students," Brown said. "The connectivity is a different issue. We have a tremendous amount of hot spots we checked out in the spring, and we will check out some more."

The district will also provide a space on campuses for students to come and connect to the school’s internet.

For flexibility, the district will provide an option for students to receive their lesson at any time of the day. Brown said this gives parents an opportunity to work on the lesson with their students.

"We have many different levels of teaching," he said. "Each campus will have their way of providing instruction or being very flexible with our principals and our teachers to get that instruction out."

A help email will be available along with live support until about 8 p.m. daily once school begins.

When in person instruction returns, students from grades four through 12 would be required to wear masks. Elementary students, TH Johnson through Pasemann, would not be required to wear masks in the classroom.

"That's what the current guidelines are," Brown said. "If and when we get to bring those students back, we will go with the guidance at that time and let the parents know ahead of time."

Staff members will have to wear face protection. Some teachers may utilize face shields rather than masks so that certain students, can read the teacher's lips if necessary.

To watch the complete interview with Brown, visit the Taylor Press Facebook page.

"We're giving the honest answer on certain things we don't know yet when people ask us questions, rather than giving them a false answer," Brown said. "In our district, we are very transparent, and we embrace our community. Right now, we want to keep everyone safe."

Look for continued follow up stories in future editions of the Taylor Press.

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